Raise your hand if you get to wear slippers to work. Unless you are Playboy magazine’s Hugh Hefner or my enterprising buddy John Pomeroy, put your hands down. I was pretty sure that my passion for academics would preclude any kind of comfort or fame, but in South Korea I can enjoy both.
After day 3 on the job, Lindsay and I have a much better attitude about our place here. Yesterday we were able to observe our Korean cohorts and get a better idea of where each grade level was with their English. Today, we were back in front of the classroom talking, explaining, miming and sometimes singing. We showed lots of pictures of family today explaining to the younger ones, “mother,” “father,” “pregnant little sister,” and so on. Lindsay’s stick figure of her preggers little sis drew quite a few laughs while my photo of my father got quite a few “oh, handsome.” Darn right, the old man wasn’t Covington High Schools prom king for nothing.
Also it seemed that today the kids really decided we weren’t scary aliens. Instead we were walking English celebrities. Almost every kid waved today and said hello teacher until we turned around to exchange the English greeting. “How are you today?” “I am fine thank you.” Most kids give you a big smile, but then there are a few that look at you stoned-faced. Both make me smile. Today after lunch, one young boy stood staring at me. I decided to shake his hand (they bow instead), which he took, and used his other hand to stroke the hair on my arm. It looked a lot like how kids at science museums handle a moon rock for the first time.
We are definitely adjusting. My stomach hurts a little bit less each day when I read the news from online or think about home. I also have found that I absolutely love kimchi. Lindsay and I walked up to a big grocery store tonight where I was very tempted to buy some from the Korean version of a deli. Ummmummm. I have to say, though, it is an acquired taste. You can’t just walk off the plane and expect to love it, or even stomach it. Lindsay has decided to leave the Korean food to lunch. But I have to admit I just do not get enough of it. I don’t know if the school cafeteria does Korean food justice, but for a $2.50 lunch buffet I swear you cannot beat it.
But we still have a long way to go with the culture. Koreans can be much more blunt than Americans, and not knowing the language makes us feel excluded from the conversations around the water cooler. But we are taking it all in stride and remembering that we are the visitors and the minority in the Land of the Morning Calm. The change in perspective is becoming the most worthwhile part of this experience.